Happy Chinese New Year of the Horse!

My friend Anthony De Marco makes it clear: “It’s the Year of the Horse and I’m ready to celebrate tomorrow by doing nothing, which is the proper way to honor the Lunar New Year according to my wife. No work, no fire for cooking, no knives, etc. I can get used to this” Take a look at his wonderful article about the brand new Chinese Year of the Horse. Enjoy!



Reinforce Your Brand with Excellence

Much has been said about improving customer service over the past few decades. Given the trend toward globalization (especially due to the Internet) and world economic turmoil, one could easily assume customer service is no longer an issue, simply because (in theory) companies should have learnt enough from the tough lessons associated with poor customer assistance or post-sales service in the past.

Unfortunately, the problem not only persists, but it has also become a real challenge for many a renowned firm, especially in the retail arenamore specifically, in the luxury retail industry, where excellence is a non-negotiable. Why? Because now more than ever, Customers are Kings and Queens! These words should be repeated like a mantra every day, all day long, by anyone trying to do business nowadays. And, more importantly, these words must be put into practice to ensure the survival of your business and your brand.

What Is Excellence?

So what is excellence after all? Excellence is simply giving much more value than expected.

Let me give you an example of what excellence is not: let´s imagine you’re inclined to get a lovely piece of jewelry for your beloved. The idea warmed up for awhile in your head and the decision is finally made to visit a well-known jewelry store in town. You step in, confident that you will be received like a King (or Queen). After all, this is a shop you don’t put your feet into every day, unlike the supermarket or your favorite retail store. But instead of a King’s reception, you get what I call “the scanning look” an employee looks you up and down with unforgettable body language clearly indicating that you’re not very welcome there, despite their attempt at what is obviously a forced “gentle” smile. Believe me, sometimes you’re not aware it’s happening, but you can certainly feel it.

Then things get even worse. After the usual opening greeting lines, you open your mouth to say the magical words: “I would like to buy a nice (necklace/bracelet/watch) for my beloved”that is to say, you are already purchasing without being aware of it, but the person “assisting” you so far hasn’t shown any indication they’re ready or willing to be of service—and even worse: they’ve done nothing at all to make you feel you’re in the right place, and that you made the right choice in choosing that company in particular.

Of course you feel frustrated, but you avoid showing it, which makes things even more uncomfortable for you. Moreover, when the process is finished (let´s say this assistant succeeded in selling you what you already said you wanted, you recognize a feeling of relief as you’re leaving. You’re left with a sense of “wrongness” inside which is directly associated with the poor level of customer service you just received.

You may think this is unusual in the luxury industry. I’m afraid to tell you it is not. In reality, many luxury companies immediately judge their clients by their characteristics, their race, their origin, the way they speak or move, the way they are dressed, the list is endless. To make things worse, these companies and the people engaged in their sales areas “rely” so much on their brand’s, reputation, tradition, and marketing campaigns that they generally forget to address their auto-critic problem and/or forget to perform periodic research to understand what kind of feedback they receive from their clients to determine how the company is really perceived by their customers.

Discovering and Embracing Excellence

Business owners, especially those in the luxury industry, have countless excuses not to address this lack of attention to their business core. Excuses come in all sizes and colors, and of course the matter of “budget” is one of the most common ones.  However, excellence in customer service has more to do with small details, attitude, and true care than huge budgets. People need to feel the excellence in the experience of purchasing from your company (especially if you’re in the business of luxury products or services), or they will choose to take their business elsewhere.

Really, it’s always been that simple.

Are you ready to make the necessary changes to embrace excellence in all areas of your company? If you are, start asking yourself these questions. Answer honestly.

  • Am I serving both my internal workers (management, employees) and my external customers (portfolio, target market) with excellence?
  • What immediate actions are needed in order to start planning and implementing a service system based on excellence?
  • Do our service and our brand actually connect emotionally with our clients? Do we really care about them? If so, how is this reflected in our sales results and growth?
  • Am I committed to crafting a customer-oriented service of excellence to make my clients feel special and unique whenever they choose to do business with us?
  • How can I learn new strategies for our day-to-day operations that enhance my portfolio of happy and loyal customers?

If you’ve honestly answered these questions and you find that you need to review your “comfort-zone-manner-of-doing-things,” you’re on your way toward excellence. Once you taste it, you will immediately shift your focus toward crafting strategies to offer unexpected value across all areas of your business (internally & externally) and you’ll never want to look back.

Clients will continue to be Kings and Queens—so it’s high time to recognize they are the real rulers in the global business kingdom.

Boost Your Brand: Find Your (Great) Mentor

Guest Blog Article
by Nora D. Richardson of Spot-On Branding

Do you have a mentor? Did you know a mentor can help you build your brand?


We’ve told you You Are Your Brand more than once here on The Branding Spot. A mentor is just one great way to be the best YOU you can be, and to see success in your work and in your life—and in the YOU component of your brand.

Your mentor can be anyone, but a great mentor is someone who is willing to challenge you to be great. A great mentor inspires you to achieve your goals— so it’s important to choose a mentor who is accomplished, likely someone you admire.



Are You Teachable?

Before you look for a mentor, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Are you teachable and open to criticism?

Sure, most people don’t like to be told they’re wrong. But part of growing your business and your brand is to take ownership of your mistakes, and to understand you have the power to create better outcomes next time. A great mentor will tell you when you’re on the right track, but a great mentor will also point out where you went wrong. Don’t worry, a great mentor will show you how to get back on that right track, even when you’ve fallen off!

2. Are you willing to change whatever is necessary to be successful in your business (and in your brand)?

Change often means sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to accomplish your goals? A great mentor will look at your situation with a clear point of view and tell you exactly what it is you need to change (or what you need to cut out) to move forward.


Finding the RIGHT Mentor—Some Considerations…

It’s important to find the right mentor for your needs, but sometimes that person you really look up to is just too busy or stretched too thin.

Be aware that your mentor must be stable in their life, and willing to lend you a guiding hand.


Ask yourself…


Does my potential mentor have a balanced work/life schedule?

Is my potential mentor accomplished and well known in their field or industry?

Does my potential mentor really have time to work with me?


A Great Mentor Offers…


A great mentor will highlight your characteristics, talents, and actions to discover traits you never realized existed, or that you weren’t yet able to see. A great mentor will provide an outside, experienced perspective on your business, and will be encouraged by your potential.


Your mentor knows what you have to do to reach that next level in your business. They’ll help you discover exactly what you need to know, inspiring you to take that next step. While change can be uncomfortable, a mentor knows how far to push you – even if you feel like it may be too far at that moment.


A great mentor likely had to deal with the same fears and crises that you struggle with, both now and in the future. You will benefit from an experienced mentor: what seems like a huge wall may be only a temporary roadblock – and your mentor will give you the courage you need to scale it and keep moving forward.


You’ll likely choose your mentor because they’re successful and respected in their field. The longer you stay with a mentor, the more connections you’ll acquire. Loyalty to your mentor is key. If a mentor feels that you’re willing to do what it takes to move forward, then they will naturally connect you with the right people to help you, your business, and your brand be most successful.


Where to Start

Take a look at your life. Is there someone in your life that already fills the role of mentor for you? Oftentimes, you may find that your mentor is right under your nose.

If you can’t think of anyone in particular, consider other accomplished people that you’ve connected with in the past. Perhaps a former boss, or a former professor you particularly admire.

If you must start from scratch, don’t simply approach a person you admire and ask them to be your mentor. A mentor-mentee relationship is complex and often develops over time. Ask yourself what you’re looking for in a mentor first. Then get out there and network until you find someone who clicks with you. You can start by searching on LinkedIn, or by attending networking events that feature attendees you look up to. Start up a conversation and see where it goes.

Boost your business, your brand, and your life—there’s no better time to seek out a mentor, especially with the New Year right around the corner.

Workshop “Labyrinths female about money”

On May 8, I had the privilege to speak on a crucial issue in the lives of women: The always controversial dichotomy Women-Money. Accepting an invitation from the President of Business & Professional Women Recoleta, Mrs. Cecilia Quadri, I had the pleasure of giving my talk-shop “Labyrinths female on the money” in the Palace

Balcarce of the City of Buenos Aires.

Authorities were present BPW Recoleta, members of the institution, entrepreneurs, professionals, friends and special guests as part of the fiftieth anniversary of BPW tireless work in Argentina, spreading education and participation of women in all areas of everyday life, art and business of the country.

While my initial intention was to show based on my research on the subject, fears and myths that entangle us women when talking and expose ambitions with money, the real purpose of my presentation was to initiate a feedback with the public by way of open gaps for continuing education of women, at all levels, including the economic and financial.
Here are some of the comments I received after the talk:
Shortly I will be reporting on the next workshop, this time more extensive, since the subject …. bla bla bla

Your Most Remarkable Emotional Tool: Surprise

If you are a good, experienced salesperson, chances are you love to find new ways to continue with your sales education. In fact, I believe that reading more and assisting to seminars and courses grants you the advantage of being more prepared to stick to the good habit of improving the quality of your customer service. This is true and necessary but it is not enough. Today, you need to learn more strategies: the main reason why you will be remembered by customers is what I call the “emotional tool” of surprise.
What do I mean? I will answer this question with some questions (after all, you already know of my passion for making them): How would you feel if you got something unexpected from a salesperson who assisted you in the past? Wouldn´t you agree with me that in such occasion your mind would probably make an effort to go back through its files and find the memory attached to the person who sent the surprise? Wouldn´t this simple act of being surprised make your day a little bit happier? And because of that, wouldn´t you immediately attach this gesture with excellent service? Absolutely, is my answer to all  these questions.
Now let me clarify something: to send a surprise to your customers does not mean counting on a huge budget to do it. Nor does it mean hiring a detective to find out what each of your customers´ preferences are (Once more: questions are your best allies when it comes to learning about them).
Essentially, customers love surprises, and surprises can be strategically crafted for each of them. The more you know about them, the closer you will be to send the right surprise.
For example, years ago I used to have a client who loved dogs. She was single, lived on her own, and had two lovely dogs she bragged about all the time as if they were her own kids.
A few weeks after one of her purchases – and after having sent her my email acknowledgement to express gratitude for her acquisition – I decided to surprise her with something that would emotionally ring a bell in her brain and heart: I sent her two dog-toys for both her “babies”.
Her response was amazing: She called me immediately to thank me for the presents, expressing her joy at watching her little pets playing around the house. She became one of my best customers for many years ever since. Budget? I believe I spent around 20 dollars for both toys (maybe less). Result? Outstanding: I managed to offer her my help for many years as a saleslady, closed fantastic sales, and built a strong and trustable long-term relationship with which she still honors me today.
Your surprises can also include: Beautiful crafted letters of acknowledgement you can enclose into lovely envelopes the color your customer adores, nicely arranged bunch of season flowers sent to office or home, useful desk accessories, etc.
If you are the shop owner, your gifts will have to reflect it: do not send 20 dollar gifts if you wish to make an emotional impact to your customers. I have met jeweler owners who did this (reputable, very well known ones, mind you) only to get logical, horrible responses from clients. I would suggest for example an original accessory like a fine pen – the one-of-a-kind- like that people adore- with your company´s logo and, if possible, the name of your customer crafted on it.
Love your customers. Make them feel they are special for you with surprises here and there and enjoy long-term happy clients and great results.Mónica M. Arias
“Helping you discover how to reach your best level of Customer Service through Excellence”
Copyright 2012


A little bit about me…

I am a woman who loves life. I adore reading, writing and learning about anything related to human nature and evolutionary leadership. I got married when I was very young – 17 – had my wonderful son and daughter, and, to make a long story short, god divorced when I was still very young: 25. At that time, my kids were 6 and 2 years old, I suddenly found myself alone – my ex husband literally disappeared from scene – broke and jobless. Back then I really had no time to get depressed though; I found myself too busy figuring out how to feed by kids, find a place to live, raise them and move on with our lives. My parents were living far away and the rest of the family did not seem to be ready to offer a hand. There were times I just wanted to stop living, but my kids were my beacons, the forces I needed to trust that everything would be all right…
So right after divorce, one morning I took my kids by the hand and went to the local center where all retailers block together and offered myself to make things like: organizing stock and exhibited goods, re-arranging displays, wrapping up gift packages (Christmas time was near), etc. I got my first client that very day and my kids and I lived under tons of paper and ribbons and bottles and boxes for many months to come…my eldest son still remembers the joy of helping me with every order.
Those were – without being conscious about it – my first steps towards Excellence Customer Service. I will not bother you more with my story, I know there are plenty of people who have gone through great pain and have learnt to take the best out of them rather than the worst, to survive. But to summarize my experience, I started working for an international Bank a couple of years later – my first formal job – and from then on, I started my career in Sales and Customer Service. Have been working for the corporate arena of luxury brands for more than 25 years. Two of my best clients throughout the years told me once: “Mónica, you should work on your own, and help companies and salespeople work like you, because you are an Excellence Expert” I said to myself at that time: “Wow!! These guys are crazy…too important a title for me” – But you know what…I am an Excellence Expert…I have always been. Because I have lived choosing Excellence every time, no matter what, in my personal and working life. I made little, medium size and huge mistakes but learnt hot to take responsibility for them and say “I am sorry” when necessary.
This is just only part of my life, because God has shown me so many miracles along my journey…One of them, probably the most outstanding and challenging one was to survive a car accident with my family back in 1994. That was a true miracle and I know, deep inside of me, that God´s army of angels descended upon the highway where the accident took place and gracefully allowed us to survive, get minimum injures, get recovered in a relatively short period of time and move on with our lives… God granted us a second chance to enjoy life, to do whatever it takes to craft the best version of Ourselves while experiencing our enormous blessings. Now time has come for me to gladly accept the title my clients so kindly gave me years ago, and plan to do business teaching about Excellence Customer Service strategies around the World while helping people understand the value of their precious, unbelievable and glorious life…